Imagine this; it’s 1996 and the Gallagher brothers have just finished their second triumphant show at Knebworth. As the audience bathes them in adulation, Noel announces that the band are to split at the peak of their powers, following which he’s immediately going to form a heavy metal band with Bjork and that they’ll never play together again.
This gamble might sound like commercial suicide, but it’s of a similar of magnitude to the one taken in 1982 by Paul Weller, then front man of The Jam, who after five years of unbroken success announced to a shocked Britain that the trio would be no more. What would he do next? Something entirely unpredictable. A meeting with former Merton Parkas keyboardist Mick Talbot had revealed a multitude of shared interests, in European culture, in soul music and internationalism. Initially without much fanfare, The Style Council were born.
People were confused, even resentful. Were The Style Council a band, a collective, or just an idea? Why couldn’t Weller be the focal point? (Their debut album Café Bleu found him singing on only of the thirteen tracks). As they emerged into the backwash of a highly combustible period in British politics – much like now – Weller found himself inspired, able to take his lyrics into more controversial territory than he would’ve been in the past, openly critiquing the capitalist institutions which had held a grip on society since the end of the second world war.
It would all come a messy end in 1989 after their label refused to release the deep-house influenced Modernism: A New Decade, but prior to that with the line-up expanded to include drummer Steve White and vocalist D.C. Lee, The Style Council played Live Aid, had a number #1 with Our Favourite Shop and proved themselves time and again to be arch provocateurs. The Jam did not reform.
Most of their premier capers are gathered on Long Hot Summers: The Story of The Style Council, a thirty seven track retrospective tied in with an accompanying documentary. Compiled and endorsed by Weller himself, it’s a collection which goes a long way to vindicating his decision to seek a vehicle with more flexibility, whether it be via an audacious cover of Joe Smooth’s proto house classic Promised Land, or the sarcasm drenched urban nightmare sketched on Come To Milton Keynes.
In his selection the Modfather throws in a couple of previously unreleased tracks – the virtuoso jazz of Dropping Bombs On The Whitehouse along with a demo version of My Ever Changing Moods – but it’s the string of glorious singles most will come for, with the likes of Long Hot Summer, Walls Come Tumbling Down, Shout To The Top and You’re The Best Thing all reminders of the many payoffs there were to one of the bravest, boldest career changes in twentieth century music history. Meanwhile in that alternative universe, Noel G’s just finished off another ten minute guitar solo.